Deuteronomy, the Greek name for this fifth and last Book of Torah, means “Second Law.” D’Varim, the Hebrew name, means “Words” and is a more accurate description of its contents. The focus is the “retelling” of Torah to the Second Generation, but it is much more than a mere repetition of the four previous books. New ideas and new perspectives to the events of the 40-year Exodus are presented.
Organization of the Book
D’Varim is organized into three sections or Sermons From Moses, if you will. The first is a brief history of the Exodus with Moses emphasizing the need to remember those events. God presented these situations to Israel for a reason, and they are related to us for the same reason. The second message lists the requirements to receive God’s Blessing, also just as pertinent today as in Moses’ day. The final message is the flip side of the second: the consequences of disobedience and obedience — obedience brings blessings, disobedience brings curses. It’s as simple as that.
Remember What God Has Done
The subject of this first Portion in Deuteronomy, D’Varim, is all about remembering; but the events that are listed here certainly not the note-worthy ones that captured our attention when we read about them for the first time. There is no mention of God at Sinai; no mention of the giving of Torah, nothing about the Golden Calf or Korah‘s Rebellion or the brass serpent on the pole or of Ba’al Peor. Instead, Moses lists only his selection of 70 judges; the bad report of the 10 spies; their extra-long journey to avoid the lands of Edom and Moab; and the defeat of the Kings Og & Sihon . So why these events?? Moses uses these seemingly obscure events to encourage this generation that will enter the Promised Land.
God does give us a glimpse of His Character in the opening lines; had Israel been faithful toward God, their journey would have lasted only 11 days. But their lack of faith cost them 40 years … and the lives of that first generation; also something we can learn from today. God also wanted them (and us today) to remember how He delivered them from Egypt, how He lead them as a Cloud by day and Fire by night, how He fought for them in the victories on the east side of the Jordan.
With this foundation of God’s Character and His Justice and Mercy, we are prepared now to move on to Moses’ second message about the requirements to receive God’s Blessings.